Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is to launch a first-of-its-kind trial using AI software within breast cancer screening.

The Leeds Investigation of Breast screening AI (LIBRA) study is aiming to generate evidence for the safe use of AI in breast screening. It will also see if it could increase cancer detection rates, reduce unnecessary patient recalls and ease workforce pressures.

The study will deploy an AI reader – Mia (Mammography Intelligent Assessment) – that will work alongside two human readers to analyse mammograms for signs of cancer.

Currently, mammograms are seen by two human readers. If they disagree on their readings, a third reader will review the mammogram before a decision is made on whether to recall a patient or not.

With the LIBRA study, patients will receive the all-clear if both human readers and the AI software agree a mammogram is normal. If there are any disagreements, clinicians will carry out the review before a decision is made.

Dr Nisha Sharma, chief investigator for the study and consultant breast radiologist at Leeds, said: “The LIBRA study is important because AI will help us to sustain a high-quality service in the future.

“Breast screening isn’t perfect and it is hoped that the LIBRA study will lead to improvements in reviewing mammograms… AI works differently to humans and by combining human expertise with technology advances this could lead to earlier detection of cancers and impact positively on women’s lives.”

If the study proves successful it could see one of the human readers replaced by an AI reader. This would free up clinicians’ time, speed up screening and increase the number of women being seen by breast screening programmes.

Kheiron Medical Technologies, the company behind the AI technology, has trained Mia to review mammograms for markers such as masses, architectural distortions or calcification.

Simon Harris, senior project manager at Kheiron, said: “The NHS does not have enough radiologists, which is leading to delays in readings and diagnoses and workforce burnout.

“To solve this problem, we are looking at how AI software could replace the second human reader and release that person to do something more clinically urgent.”

Leeds Teaching Hospitals will be the first breast screening unit in England to carry out a prospective study using AI technology.

The trust is now recruiting nearly 7,000 women for the LIBRA study, which is being funded under NHS England’s AI in Health and Care Award.

This is not the first time that Leeds Teaching Hospitals has incorporated AI technology into its breast screening programme. A year ago it started using AI tech to evaluate the quality of mammograms, by delivering instant feedback and AI-powered positioning information at the point the image is taken.